Halloween Flash: The Stamp Of A Vamp

Alison Day was a mousy woman who had barely been scuffed by the wear and tear of life until the day she met Lulu, the effect of which was like lightning hitting a plane. The Autumn night draped itself over the city, and the moon bit into the sky as Alison rushed home from her usual Wednesday evening yoga class. She felt edgy and fumbled for her keys as she heard the click, click, click of high heels on the wet pavement. She turned. On the corner of the street, beneath a blinking street lamp, a woman was smoking a cigarette. Her silhouette seemed to appear and disappear like warm breath on a cold window pane.

The woman was tall and, like Alison, in her early thirties with wan looking skin, a slash of red lipstick across her full lips and her black hair cut into a Louise Brooks bob. She was wearing a red PVC raincoat and shiny black stiletto heels and Alison suddenly felt very dowdy with her green cagoule, Gap jeans and mousy, unkempt hair.

The woman slowly sauntered towards Alison-and in a muddy foreign accent, said:

‘Keep looking at people like that and you’ll be in for a good tongue lashing.’

And then she collapsed in heap at Alison’s’ feet.

* * *

‘Would you like a cup of tea?” said Alison, “I have …’
‘Something stronger, maybe?’ purred the woman as she sat up from the sofa.
Alison rummaged in a cupboard and found an unopened bottle of absinthe.
‘How about this?’ she said.
The woman smiled and lit a Gauloises cigarette.
‘My name is Lulu,’ she said, filling two shot glasses with absinthe. ‘Drink with me, eh?’
As the night hurtled on, Alison got drunk and in the process told Lulu her life story, such as it was. Lulu seemed fascinated by Alison’s idyllic, picture postcard childhood in Yorkshire and her job at Bermondsey Library. Lulu revealed little about herself, however, except that she had come from Bucharest shortly before the revolution and that she was married to a nightclub owner called Nicholas.

‘You know,’ said Alison ‘I hardly ever drink. My friends say that I can get drunk on the sniff of a barmaid’s apron.’ She giggled. ‘This is the first time I’ve drunk absinthe.’

‘They say it makes the heart grow fonder,’ said Lulu, licking the rim of the glass and holding Alison’s gaze.

***
At some point during the night Alison woke up in bed, in a cold sweat, with no recollection of getting there. Lulu, naked, was smoking and gazing out of the bedroom window. The tip of her cigarette glowed bright red and then faded to black.

***

In the morning, as slivers of sun sliced through the blinds, Alison awoke and saw that Lulu was gone. Memories of the night before fizzed like champagne bubbles as, on the bed, she saw a business card for Vamps Gentleman’s Club in Shoreditch. Written in red lipstick, was a phone number.

***

Vamps was suffocating in black leather and red velvet. It was cluttered with noisy groups of brash City Boys and semi-naked young women who wandered around with beer glasses full of money. The DJ played ‘Goldfinger’ as a statuesque blond, wearing only a pair of angels’ wings, crawled up and down a glistening pole.

Alison sat on a large black sofa next to Lulu, who was dressed in a red leather nun’s habit with a gold pentagram dangling from a chain around her neck. Tearing the label from her beer bottle she moved in close to hear Lulu speak.

‘I suppose marriage to Nicholas was a marriage of convenience.’ Lulu said. ‘I wanted to stay legally in England and he wanted…well, a pet. He promised me a job in a West End nightclub and I ended up here. But the worse thing is, he makes me have sex with other dancers. His business partners.’

She downed her drink in one.

‘Can’t you leave him?’ said Alison, red faced.

‘If I leave him, I’ll be deported and that will be that’, she said. Alison blanched.

As Autumn trudged on into Winter, Alison and Lulu’s meetings became more frequent and murderous thoughts hovered over them like a hawk ready to strike its prey until one night Lulu eventually said, ‘Okay. Let’s kill him.’

***

‘You see, ninety nine percent of the human race are just here to make up the numbers,’ said Nicholas, in a voice stained with nicotine and brimmed with brandy. He was an elegant, handsome man in his sixties. He indifferently smoked a large cigar, the smoke rings floating above his head like a halo or a crown of thorns.

‘They’re just cannon fodder. Don’t you agree?’

Alison couldn’t agree or disagree. She couldn’t say a thing and she couldn’t move.
The plan had been simple enough. She was to go to Vamps on New Years Eve and ask about work as dancer. When the place closed she’d accept Nicholas’s inevitable invitation to go to his office for a night cap with him and Lulu. They were to poison him and dump his body in the Thames along with the drunks who tottered into the river’s dank and dirty water at this time of year.

But after the first couple of drinks she realised that she was paralysed. In the oak and leather armchair she was like an insect trapped in amber. The clock struck twelve and the room was lit up by exploding fireworks. Lulu and Nicholas’ eyes glowed bright red and then faded to black.

‘Happy New Year, my sweet,’ said Lulu. ‘I hope you like your present.’

‘I’m sure I will, darling,’ said Nicholas, ‘I know how difficult it is to find fresh meat in these decadent times’. He chuckled and seemed to float from his chair.

As Nicholas sank his fangs deep into her neck, Alison felt pain greater than she had ever felt before. She wanted to cry, to scream, to tear herself apart but she could do nothing except listen to the sound of fireworks and Lulu’s cruel, cruel laughter.

(c) Paul D. Brazill

Dave Wilde Reviews 13 Shots Of Noir

13 shots2Over at Goodreads, he says:

‘These are all good stories. “The Tut” begins with the unforgettable line: “After enduring forty-five years of a marriage that was at best, like wading through treacle, Oliver Robinson eventually had enough and smothered his wife with the beige corduroy cushion that he’d accidentally burned with a cigarette two fraught days before.” Wow, what an entire history Brazill packed into that one sentence! The second selection “Anger Management” is another short masterpiece. It is sort of a mood piece, but it is filled with lines like: “I’ve heard it said that eighteen months of sleep deprivation can drive you crazy.” You can honestly open up the book to any point in these thirteen stories and find something of interest, some dark haunting poetic line. “The Friend Catcher” is another short (they are all short) that begins with an amazingly thick line of prose: “The morning after Charlotte killed her father, the air tasted like lead and the sky was gun metal grey.” That’s a whole story right there.
Thirteen little gems packed into a short little book. I enjoyed these little glimpse into the darkness.’

99p eBooks!

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N2TK

My NEAR TO THE KNUCKLE novellas are now only 99p each!

TOO MANY CROOKS

Too Many Crooks is a blackly comic Brit Grit romp from the author of Guns Of Brixton and Kill Me Quick! When high-class fence Leslie Hawkins meets Peter Rhatigan in a sleazy London pub, he offers her the chance to get her hands on the Totenkopfring, a legendary piece of World War Two memorabilia. However, after a violent encounter with a member of a biker gang, things soon spiral wildly and dangerously out of control. Meanwhile in Poland, Dr Anna Nowak finds an amnesiac Englishman half-dead in the snow…

A CASE OF NOIR

In snow smothered Warsaw, Luke Case, a boozy English hack with a dark secret, starts a dangerous affair with a gangster’s wife. Case escapes to the sweltering Spanish heat where he meets a colourful cast of characters, including a mysterious torch singer and a former East End villain with a criminal business proposition. While in stormy Toulouse, he encounters a blast from the past that is positively seismic which forces him to return to England and confront his past.

BIG CITY BLUES

London Detective Sergeant Ronnie Burke and Polish cop Jola Lach are on the trail of a serial killer, and New York private eye Solitaire is sent to Spain to track down a missing rich kid. See how their lives intertwine in Big City Blues. British coppers, an American private eye, London gangsters, international spies, and a serial killer known as The Black Crow all collide violently and hilariously in Big City Blues, another fast-moving and funny Brit Grit novella from Paul D. Brazill.

 

And you can still also grab 13 SHOTS OF NOIR and KILL ME QUICK! for less than a quid, too!

99p eBooks

I have a fistful of eBooks that you can pick up for a mere 99p at Amazon.co.uk

Too Many Crooks

too-many-crooks

Too Many Crooks

When high-class fence Leslie Hawkins meets Peter Rhatigan in a sleazy London pub, he offers her the chance to get her hands on the Totenkopfring, a legendary piece of World War Two memorabilia. However, after a violent encounter with a member of a biker gang, things soon spiral wildly and dangerously out of control. Meanwhile in Poland, Dr Anna Nowak finds an amnesiac Englishman half-dead in the snow…

Too Many Crooks by Paul D. Brazill is a fast-moving and action-packed cocktail of bodies, bullets and death-black comedy.

A Case Of Noir

In snow smothered Warsaw, Luke Case, a boozy English hack with a dark secret, starts a

a-case-of-noir-n2tk

A Case Of Noir

dangerous affair with a gangster’s wife. Case escapes to the sweltering Spanish heat where he meets a colourful cast of characters, including a mysterious torch singer and a former East End villain with a criminal business proposition. While in stormy Toulouse, he encounters a blast from the past that is positively seismic which forces him to return to England and confront his past.

Kill Me Quick!

kill me quick cover

Kill Me Quick

Seatown may not have a lot going for it – apart from the Roy Orbison lookalikes and Super Seventies Special every Thursday night, of course – but it is at least the place Mark Hammonds calls home. And after a decade away, it’s the place he returns to when he has nowhere else to go.

From dead bikers to dodgy drug deals, from one downbeat bar to another, from strippers to gangsters and back again: the luckless former musician bounces from one misdeed to the next along with a litany of old acquaintances, almost as though he never left. And if only he can shake off everybody who wants to kill, maim or otherwise hurt him, maybe he could even think about staying.

13 Shots Of Noir

English writer Paul D Brazill’s 13 Shots Of Noir is a collection of short stories in the vein of13 shots2 Roald Dahl, The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.The first story, “The Tut”, was nominated for a 2010 Spinetingler Award, while the story “Anger Management” was chosen as one of the Predators and Editors top twenty crime stories.

Crime, horror and dark fiction are contained within the pages of 13 Shots Of Noir.

 

 

#FRIDAY FLASH: EVERYDAY PEOPLE

13 shots2Brendan Burke was a creature of narrow habit and come rain or come shine, come hell or high water, he always ate meat on Fridays, even though, around the time of his seventieth birthday, it had begun to play havoc with his digestion.
‘Rebellion,’ said Brendan to Tony Amerigo. ‘Rebellion against the shackles of my Catholic upbringing.’
‘Power to the people,’ said Tony, raising a clenched fist.
Tony had been a butcher since leaving school, as were his father and grandfather, but business hadn’t been so good since the influx of supermarkets selling cut price cuts of meat. Curmudgeons like Brendan were a godsend for Tony.
Brendan put the meat in his tartan shopping bag and headed off.
‘Post office, next?’ said Tony.
‘As per usual,’ said Brendan. The social services kept trying to convince him to have his pension paid into the bank but Brendan had dug his heels in, stuck to his guns. He hated banks and enjoyed his trips to the post office, the centre of the local tittle tattle. ‘And then I’m off to the naval club, though I still don’t know if I’m an inny or an outty’.
He chuckled to himself and was still chuckling when a lime-coloured scooter jumped a light and knocked him arse over tit.

* * *

‘Jeezus, don’t send for her!’ said Brendan. Skye, the featherlight social worker that hovered over him – looking like a delicate flower next to the mountain of a man-  had suggested phoning his daughter, Sue, who lived in London and getting her to come and take care of him for a while. He’d barely been in the hospital a week, discharging himself after complaining about missing two drinking sessions at the club.
‘She’s worse than her bloody mother was for fussin’ and fannying around,’said Brendan.
‘Well, you do need a carer, Mr B,’ said Sky.
Brendan shook his head as he looked at her. She was sparkling and fresh, from somewhere down south – home counties, maybe. How could she possibly  have a clue about anything?
‘Do you know anyone?’ she asked.
Brendan just stared at her nose stud with disgust.

* * *

Barry Sweet had ducked into his flat as soon as he saw the social worker enter the building. He’d seen her before in the record shop where he hung around. She’d bought a Janis Ian CD and had tried to made conversation about it but it wasn’t exactly his cup of cocoa. Neither was small talk.

Barry was a bit off a mouse, who kept himself to himself, although it would have surprised most people to know that he loved to listen Sly Stone, Bootsy Collins and Funkadelic. These were what blew his skirt up. Along with taxidermy – his flat was cluttered with pigeons,rats, even a leathery black bat -collecting funk on vinyl was the centre of his life.
When Brendan moved into the flat opposite, Barry was a bit worried that the old man would complain about the noise but after talking to him a couple of times he relaxed . Brendan was as deaf as a post.
He was listing to Sly Stone and changing into his ASDA uniform when he heard the scream and the bang. He stuck his head out of the door and saw that Brendan’s door was was open. And then he heard coughing, choking.
‘Are you alright Mr Burke?’ he said. No reply.
He went to Burke’s door and knocked.
‘Mr Burke?’ said Barry, louder this time. He went into the flat and saw Brendan doubled over and red faced.Barry  ran towards him.
‘Are you alright?’
Brendan looked up with tears in his eyes. Tears of laughter.
‘Sorry … Sorry, Sweety,’ said Brendan. Barry blushed. He hated that nickname.
‘Couldn’t resist.’ He wheezed. ‘I just wanted her to piss off, so…’ he coughed. ‘So, I grabbed her knockers. The stuck up little cow soon scarpered then.’
‘So, you’re okay,’ said a blushing Barry.
‘Aye,’ said Brendan. ‘Do us a favour and pass us that bottle of vodka from the mantelpiece and get two glasses from the kitchenette.
Barry wasn’t much of a drinker but he thought needed to calm down before heading off to work.
He poured the drinks.
‘A toast,’ said Brendan.
‘Na zdrowia, as Polish Andy used to say. To your health.’
Brendan downed the vodka in one and Barry did the same but it burned like molten lava.

* * *

After a week or two it was decided that Barry would be Brendan’s carer. He’d do the shopping, cash his pension and pop in now and again to keep an eye on him.
Barry started to like drinking with Brendan and the carers’ allowance that he received meant that he could give up his job at  ASDA. In fact all was tickety boo until November.

* * *

Tony Amerigo’s voice had been like a dripping tap to Barry and the woman at the Post office was even worse. Still, he endured the shopping trip and managed to pop in to the record shop before lunchtime to buy Parliament’s ‘Up for the down Stroke.’
‘Pricey stuff this,’ said John, the owner of the shop. ‘Been saving up your pennies, Sweety?’
Barry ignored him and headed back home.

* * *

‘The Post Office was packed again,’ said Barry to Brendan, as he put the shopping bags on the orange, plastic, formica table.
Brendan said nothing, of course. He’d said nothing since he’d broken his neck falling out of the bath on Bonfire Night. Barry still liked these evenings, though. Steak, vodka and a bit of Bootsy playing in the background. He glanced over at Brendan’s massive body  as he unpacked the rest of the shopping and thought that he really should have bought some more formaldehyde.

(EVERYDAY PEOPLE first appeared online at A TWIST OF NOIR and is included in my flash fiction collection 13 SHOTS OF NOIR.)

13 Shots Of Noir only 69c!

Out Now: 13 Shots Of Noir by Paul D BrazillAs part of UNTREED READS‘ Halloween sale,  my flash fiction collection  13 SHOTS OF NOIR is only 69c for the next couple of days.

Grab it here.

And check out the rest of the sale.

30% OFF All Mysteries
Up to 50% Off Paperbacks, Hardcovers and Large Print
Prefer a printed book to keep you grounded in the mortal realm? We’ve got a great selection of paperbacks, hardcovers and large print titles at prices so good…they’re scary!’

 

#FRIDAY FLASH: ANGER MANAGEMENT

13 SHOTS OF NOIR BY PAUL D BRAZILLI used to get angry all the time. Especially when I was a teenager. The “difficult years,” doctors used to call it. As if there could ever be any other with a father like mine.

I’d see crimson, burn up like a volcano, rant, rave, spit, scream – the whole deal.

Sometimes I’d even black out and I’d fall through a trapdoor straight down into the deepest well. Darkness all around.

It was after one of those “episodes” that I came to with gigantic hands gripped around my throat, dangling me over the thirteenth-floor balcony of some grimy tower block somewhere in East London. No recollection of getting there.

So that was when I decided to channel my aggression. That’s when I joined The Squad.

First it was just the football; following the team to some hick northern town and screaming abuse at the bumpkins. But that was never enough. I knew there was more. I could smell it; taste it.

And then I met Tubeway, Slammer and Col. The Squad. They were a breakaway group from the mainstream hooligans. They called it “rucking and rolling.” Football hooliganism mixed with mugging. It made sense. This was the nineties and Cool Britannia had no place for the likes of us.

We were the dispossessed, according to Tubeway. He liked to use words like that; flaunt his vocabulary and GCSE in Philosophy. The same Tubeway who used to listen to Hitler’s speeches without understanding a word of German.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew that they were tossers – just looking for excuses for being violent. I didn’t need an excuse, though. I knew that I liked to inflict pain; I needed to hurt. It was just a matter of when and who.

Then they introduced me to Mr Bettis – or Sweaty Betty, as he was known behind his back. He was like a giant pink slug. Col said he looked like Jabba the Hutt. I just nodded. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I didn’t watch films. I didn’t read books – I could barely read – and I didn’t like music. What I liked was violence. Sweaty paid well. He told us to keep our noses clean. Become respectable. Invisible to the law. He’d contact us once a month with a name and a place. Maybe a picture. And we did what he asked. Sometimes we used Stanley knives. Or blowtorches. Or even guns.

I loved it. I was good. The best. I started to develop a sense of professional pride. I distanced myself from the others. They were a liability. Disasters waiting to happen, I thought. And I was right.

Tubeway had his neck broken by a transvestite in Clapham. Col died of a smack overdose in a piss-stained Wandsworth squat. And Slammer got locked up for life, which I found ironic once I’d learned that word at my adult literacy class.

Oh yes, I studied. Learned to read and write. Learned history – enough to put Tubeway in his place without batting an eyelid. I learned aikido and kung fu. I practiced yoga and I got married. And had kids.

I still worked for Sweaty but the jobs were few and far between; he only used me for the “prime cuts,” as he called them.

Everything seemed so right.

And then it all went pear-shaped as quick as spit disappears on hot pavement.

It’s been fifteen years since I joined The Squad and I suppose it’s taken its toll. I expect that I’m a tad jaded.

Which is why, I suppose, the sounds and the yells of the man strapped to the tree in front of me have no impact on me. Don’t even ruffle a feather.

The golf course is empty; it’s dusk and like in the film Alien – yes, I started watching films, too – no one can hear him scream.

Time to continue the interview.

***

It always rains in the dreams. Always. Pours down in sheets. But in reality it was a burning, brandy-brimmed, summer morning.

In the dreams, there are no kids, either. Just a sinister, grinning man who looks like my father, wearing a long black coat and carrying a carving knife.

And when I wake up, I feel released. Free. But then the cold light of day hits me between the eyes. Because there was no man in black. No pounding rain. Just two kids who got in the way of a hail of bullets. My own kids.

It all went black for a long time after that. Until I woke up drowning in sweat, booze, piss and tears. Stinking of shame, guilt and self-loathing.

And then it never went black again. It was an endless cold white.

I’ve heard it said that eighteen months of sleep deprivation can drive you crazy. Well, I was mad after that anyway.

So now there’s a dead man in front of me, dangling from a tree, in an exclusive golf course, in the fresh morning dew. A slug of a man who looks like Jabba the Hutt. And he’s given me the name of the man who ordered the hit. The hit that resulted in the death of my kids.

Oh, I know. It’s just an excuse. A way of avoiding culpability. Just a reason to inflict pain. A reason to hurt. And to kill. And to keep on killing.

The End.

(c) Paul D. Brazill.

( Anger Management is included in 13 Shots Of Noir. Published by Untreed Reads.)

Short, Sharp Interview: Gareth Spark

PDB: What’s going on now?

Right now I’m suffering that mixture of dread and delight that comes when you publish anything, and which seems so much more severe when that something is a collection of stories you’ve worked on for a number of years. 

SNAKE FARM, is a book into which I’ve invested a lot of imaginative capital and energy for a long damn time. It’s a post-modern tribute to the outlaw life, an examination of violence and, above all, a collection of gritty stories. The book begins with tales set in the old American west, at the very dawn of that idea of the desperado as hero, and continues through tales of war and crime and heartache to a penultimate tale set in a post-apocalyptic world, before heading right back to the Wild West.

PDB: How did you research this book?

The title (as well as being pinched from a kickass Ray Wylie Hubbard song) comes from those places where they keep these poisonous critters and use their venom to create an anti-venom, a cure, and I liked the idea of the book as a metaphorical snake farm. The historical stories were researched pretty hard to provide some kind of accuracy, but the vast majority occur in the here and now and take place in areas I know pretty well, either in the UK or Spain.

PDB: Which of your publications are you most proud of?

Somebody once asked Picasso which of his paintings was his favourite and he replied, “The next one.” I’d have to echo that sentiment.

PDB: What’s your favourite film/ book/ song/ television programme? 


At the moment, I’m pretty into JUSTIFIED. I’m re-watching all 6 seasons, beginning to end. (Thank you SKY TV!) The books I’m digging right now are EVERYTHING RAVAGED, EVERYTHING BURNED by Wells Tower and THE ANIMALS by Christian Kiefer. I’m also looking forward to Aidan Thorn’s upcoming second collection. That guy can write.

PDB: Is location important to your writing?

I personally think the answer to the kind of cultural vanilla gloop that comes with globalisation and social media hegemony is with the particular and the local, and I try to make my writing a true representation of the places I know well, excepting the historical stories, and I research those with no small industry.

PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?

Hardly ever, and that’s the truth. A history of miserable “Author’s profile” pics means I never google my name either. That way madness lies.

PDB: What’s next?

I’m editing a 50K Novella called GUTTER WOLVES, which is a gangster thriller set on the Costa del crime and I’ve just finished a screenplay called JERICHO ROSE about a Gulf War vet/recluse who finds a kidnapped girl. I’m also writing a new novel, a noir called WINTER FIRES. That’s still in the 1st draft though.

57377-sparkyBio: Gareth Spark writes dark fiction from and about the moors and rust belts of the North East where grudges are savoured, shotguns are cheap and people get by in the economic meltdown any way they can.

His work has appeared at Near 2 The Knuckle, Out Of The Gutter, Line Zero, Shotgun Honey, and many more journals/zines. Gareth Spark was born in the middle of a blizzard on New Year’s day, 1979. He grew up in Whitby and published his first book, a collection of poetry called “At The Breakwater” at age 22.
He has since published two further collections “Ramraid” (Skrev Press) and “Rain in a dry land” (Mudfog) as well as the crime thriller, “Black Rain” (Skrev Press, 2004) and the collection of short stories “Snake Farm” (2015). He reviews fiction and poetry for various on-line journals.
(This interview first appeared at Out Of The Gutter Online)

13 Shots Of Noir reviewed at Everythingnoir.

cropped-13-shots2.jpg’13 Shots of Noir is a short story collection from Paul D. Brazill. All 13 of these stories are very short and snappy. In most of these stories I felt if Raymond Chandler was writing today, it would read a lot like this. His characters have sharp tongues and use smart ass remarks mixed with popular culture references that put a smile on your face as you read them.’

Read the rest of the well-tidy review here and check out the rest of the blog.

Get 13 Shots Of Noir For 99p/ 99c !

13 shotsIf you want to pick up a copy of my flash fiction collection 13 Shots Of Noir, now is the time.

13 Shots Of Noir – published by UNTREED READS – is currently 99p / 99c at Amazon.

The blurb: English writer Paul D Brazill’s 13 Shots Of Noir is a collection of short stories in the vein of Roald Dahl, The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.The first story, “The Tut”, was nominated for a 2010 Spinetingler Award, while the story “Anger Management” was chosen as one of the Predators and Editors top twenty crime stories. Crime, horror and dark fiction are contained within the pages of 13 Shots Of Noir.

BITS N BOBS.

cropped-cropped6.jpgRUNAROUND … NOW!

I’m interviewed over at MORGEN BAILEY’S BLOG MARTIN STANLEY reviews 13 SHOTS OF NOIR and DEATH ON A HOT AFTERNOONCHRIS LEEK  reviews DEATH ON A HOT AFTERNOON over at OUT OF THE GUTTER ONLINEANDREW PETERS  gives DEATH ON A HOT AFTERNOON  a 5 star review at  GOODREADS … my latest BRIT GRIT ALLEY column is also over at OUT OF THE GUTTER ONLINEZOE SHARP talks about money at THE HARDBOILED COLLECTIVE…